Kenneth D. Litwak
Journal of Religious & Theological Information, v. 11 (1-2).
BibleWorks 9. (2011). Norfolk, VA: BibleWorks, LLC. $359.00 (DVD version), $159.00 (upgrade from BibleWorks 8).
The motto of BibleWorks is "focus on the text," and version 9 is the new version. It adds many new resources to aid in the study of the Bible in languages from English to Thai to Turkish. Each version includes new additions of grammar and other reference works, and new tools for working with the biblical text. Version 9 continues with significant new features that will be especially welcomed by scholars and graduate students and others able to work in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, or the languages of early translations of the Bible. The installation procedure is easier than in version 8, as there are only three DVDs to install instead of five. The installation program itself did not require uninstalling the previous version, but this is essential to do before installing version 9 in order to get a stable installation. (The reviewer did not do this, and, after significant assistance from the BibleWorks support team, had to uninstall version 9, re-install version 8, uninstall it, and then install version 9 to get a working setup.) BibleWorks provides translations and tools that make it suitable for lay people, but even more for college, seminary, graduate students, and faculty. The reviewer found it an indispensable aid for writing his doctoral dissertation.
BibleWorks is a program that runs on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7, as well as being able to run on a Mac in the Windows emulation mode. It contains many English translations, such as the New American Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, Complete Jewish Bible, and the 1534 Tyndale New Testament. New English versions of the Bible include the Common English Bible (2011), the New American Bible, rev. ed., and the New International Version (2011) with cross-references and footnotes. Also new to this version, once an unlock code is purchased, is the ESV Study Bible. There are also many translations in other languages including French, German, Finnish, Czech, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese, with new translations, such as the Thai Standard Version (2010). There are also ancient translations such as the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Septuagint.
There are tools for studying the English text of the Bible as well as the Bible in its original languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, such as lexicons, diagramming tools, a flashcard vocabulary module, Bible dictionaries, cross-references (an entire tab in the Analysis window), grammars, and maps. There is a built-in editor for taking notes or other text. There is a search tool to help find verses based on words in the language of the translation and for Hebrew and Greek, based upon the lemma (vocabulary form), accents, and more. For example, it is not only possible to search for all the occurrences of prayer in Genesis, but it is possible to search for all the pluperfect verb forms in the New Testament. The search capability removes the problem of needing a hardcover concordance for every English version a patron might have. Since the focus of BibleWorks is on the study of the biblical text itself, it docs not come with lots of commentaries and related books, as some similar products do, but it does have additional works that are valuable. The text of Josephus in both English and Greek, Philo in English and Latin, Schaff's Early Church Fathers, the Babylonian Talmud, older commentaries such as Matthew Henry's, several (Calvinist/Reformation-related) doctrinal statements [e.g., the Westminster Standards and the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1589)]' and the Moody Bible Atlas. The number of books available is growing, but for several of these, it is necessary to purchase an unlock code. This would be critical for the BDAG and HALOT lexicons, for example, but perhaps not as important for Bavinck's Reformed Dogmatics (4 volumes). Several external books and Web sites can be added from WordSearch via the BibleWorks Web site. There are also links to several books and Web sites through the External Resource Manager (Ermie), including works on Google Books. One of the new features is a "Verse tab" that provides information from several tools about the verse the mouse is over. For those doing research with BibleWorks, it is often helpful, if not necessary, to be able to provide references to texts being cited. BibleWorks 9 contains bibliography import files for programs such as Zotero, RIS, Refer-BibIX, and BibTex.
For scholarly research into the New Testament, textual criticism is important, and BibleWorks has added two valuable features. First, BibleWorks 9 includes the New Testament Critical Apparatus from the Center for New Testament Textual Studies. This apparatus, accessed by clicking the "Verse" tab in the Analysis window, provides information on textual variants and scribal notes from hundreds of New Testament manuscripts (MSS). It enables a user to view all the early textual variants for a given verse at once. Second, BibleWorks 9 also provides the first version of the BibleWorks Manuscript Project, which gives users the ability to read transcriptions and see images of many important early New Testament manuscripts. The manuscripts, such as Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Bezae, can be viewed individually, examined side-by-side with comparison tools, verse location tagging in images, and morphological tagging (not yet complete), like other Greek (and Hebrew and Aramaic) biblical texts.
There are many features in BibleWorks 9 to aid users in learning to take advantage of them. There are six hours of "how-to" videos, as well as online documentation. By default, a "Getting Started" page shows up at start-up, though this can be turned off. There are far more features that could be mentioned in this review, but hopefully enough have been listed to give a good idea of what BibleWorks 9 can do. It is a highly-recommended tool that would be a good addition to a library (with various licensing models available), as well as a valuable, if not indispensable, research tool for faculty, students, pastors, and others studying the Bible.
Kenneth D. Litwak is Adjunct Reference Librarian at Azusa Pacific University.